24 Feb 2013 08:55:17

Eastleigh by-election is showing UKIP to be an all-purpose protest party

By Harry Phibbs
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I found it hard to believe at first, but Lord Ashcroft's research about the European Union not being the key factor in UKIP's support is proving to be correct.

In the Eastleigh by-election on Thursday it is clear that they are going to do astonishingly well. Polls published today and yesterday have them pushing Labour into fourth place.

Telling UKIP supporters that the Conservatives offer an in/out EU referendum while the Lib Dems do not appears to have had limited impact. The concerns are far wider. Angry about spending cuts? Vote UKIP. Angry about the failure to cut spending? Vote UKIP. Angry that the 50p tax rate was cut? Vote UKIP. Angry that it was only cut to 45p, not 40p? Vote UKIP. Angry about immigration, gay marriage, the NHS....

Tim makes the point that UKIP's manifesto is contradictory. Even if it wasn't, they are now the de fault protest option untainted by power.

What else are voters who wish to register a by-election protest supposed to do? Labour were in Government too recently (and their candidate in Eastleigh expressed sorrow that Margaret Thatcher wasn't killed in the Brighton bomb and that Argentina didn't win the Falklands War).

The Conservatives and Lib Dems are parties of Government.

So the bad news for the Conservatives is that the EU referendum pledge has had limited impact. The good news is that UKIP are also taking votes from Labour and the Lib Dems.

The Lib Dems used to thrive in by-elections as the protest party. UKIP are the new Lib Dems.

23 Feb 2013 21:06:24

Survation for the Mail on Sunday has Maria Hutchings four points ahead in Eastleigh

Screen shot 2013-02-23 at 20.47.20

By Paul Goodman
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The figures are:

  • Conservatives: 33
  • Liberal Democrats: 29
  • Labour: 13
  • UKIP: 22

This morning's Populus poll for the Times (£) found the following:

  • Conservatives: 28
  • Liberal Democrats: 33
  • Labour: 11
  • UKIP: 21

Lord Ashcroft's poll a fortnight ago recorded:

  • Conservatives: 34
  • Liberal Democrats: 31
  • Labour: 19
  • UKIP: 13

A few quick points:

  • If the polls to date are to be believed, the Coalition partners are battling it out for first place.
  • UKIP are clearly coming up on the rails very fast indeed, having increased their support since the Ashcroft poll, according to the others, by over a third.
  • Labour's John O'Farrell is being squeezed out, and some of Labour's support, like some of that from the two main parties, has gone to UKIP.
  • It is still probable that one of the two main parties will win, but it is clearly not impossible that UKIP will come second or even first, and should now come a good third at least.
  • Tim Montgomerie has just tweeted that it is vital that Tory activists pour into the seat before Thursday.
  • I plan to pour myself into Eastleigh, so to speak, on Wednesday, but have noted that the LibDem information on the ground will be better than CCHQ's.

17 Feb 2013 17:40:34

Lib-Con relations are fracturing – in Eastleigh and elsewhere

By Peter Hoskin
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What larks in Eastleigh! As various Tory MPs have tweeted in identikit fashion, the Lib Dem candidate has today ‘fessed up to voting for 5,000 new homes to be built on previously undeveloped green space – and this despite campaign literature which warns that “countryside spaces between our towns and villages across the borough of Eastleigh are under new threat thanks to Hampshire Conservatives”. Grant Shapps puts it thus:

“The Lib Dems Eastleigh campaign is in turmoil. Their central promise to the people of Eastleigh is to protect the local area’s green spaces. But now their candidate has admitted that they will concrete over the countryside with their plans for 5,000 new houses on green field sites.

The Liberal Democrats cannot mislead the voters forever – they’ve been found out. Nick Clegg now needs to apologise for the Lib Dems’ totally inaccurate claims.”

And there’s another Lib Dem-related story that CCHQ has set about exploiting today: the Mail on Sunday splash about Team Clegg’s plans to extend wealth taxes into your jewellery box. According to the paper, the Lib Dem leadership is considering—alongside the introduction of a souped-up mansion tax—an idea to allow taxmen into people’s homes to value, and then slap levies across, assets such as necklaces and paintings. Admittedly, Vince Cable has since played down many elements of the story, but not before Tories across Twitter seized on it with alacrity and gratitude.

In truth, the Lib Dems’ general eagerness to tax wealth creates as much a conundrum for the Tory leadership as a target. Of course, it’s easy to strike out at any jewellery tax, but a stronger variety of mansion tax is a different matter altogether. As “one influential figure” suggests to James Forsyth, Labour's sympathy for such a levy could alter the balance of negotiations in the event of another hung parliament – meaning that “Cameron will have to fold and accept a mansion tax as the price of power.”

Myself, I think the Tories shouldn’t dismiss higher taxes on expensive properties out-of-hand – for reasons I've set out before. But this is hardly a possiblity that will cheer many party members.

8 Nov 2012 11:37:10

This parliament should see the highest number of by-elections in 20 years

By Matthew Barrett
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BALLOT BOX 1As Peter Hoskin noted yesterday, the writs for a number of seats will be moved today, and will bring the number of by-elections in this parliament to 13.

We've just hit half-way through this term, and so one might reasonably assume that there will be at least 20 by-elections by 2015. That would be the highest number since the 1987-92 parliament. Unlike in that parliament, which had by-elections caused by the departure of MPs from all parties, this parliament has seen a strangely one-sided number of by-elections caused by Labour MPs.

Of the 13 by-elections called so far, only one has been caused by a Conservative MP (Corby), and one by Sinn Féin (Belfast West). The other 11 have all been Labour, including five caused by death or ill health, three because of scandals (Denis MacShane, Phil Woolas and Eric Illsley) and another three who resigned to contest higher office outside Parliament (a topic I've covered in more detail before).

Another point of interest is that there is a 14th by-election looming, at some point. In June, Martin "Machine Gun" McGuinness announced he would step down from the House of Commons because the Northern Ireland Assembly decided it would stop "double-jobbing" (sitting as a member of more than one legislative body), which meant Mr McGuinness could either resign as an MP, or give up his job as Deputy First Minister. Naturally he chose to stand down from Parliament - whereas his party colleagues resigned from the Northern Ireland Assembly, because MLAs are simply appointed to fill vacancies, and so do not incur the costs that a by-election does. However, the by-election in Mr McGuinness' Mid Ulster constituency is yet to take place.

Continue reading "This parliament should see the highest number of by-elections in 20 years" »

7 Nov 2012 16:20:00

29th November is by-election Super Thursday

By Peter Hoskin
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According to Paul Waugh, we can now expect a trio of by-elections on 29th November. Apparently, Labour will move the writs for Croydon North, Middlesbrough and Rotherham tomorrow.

All of which makes the next few weeks even more election-heavy. Don’t forget, on 15th November, we also have the by-election in Corby — the first time that the current Government has had to defend one of its seats — as well as those in Manchester Central and Cardiff South & Penarth. The police commissioner elections are also on that day.

Continue reading "29th November is by-election Super Thursday" »

13 Sep 2012 16:08:03

Cardiff councillor Craig Williams selected as the Conservative candidate for the Cardiff South and Penarth by-election

By Matthew Barrett
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Picture 11Cardiff Councillor Craig Williams has been selected as the Conservative candidate for the Cardiff South and Penarth by-election, which will be held in November to replace Labour MP Alun Michael, who will contest the region's Police and Crime Commissioner election. 

Cllr Williams, has represented the Pentyrch division since 2008, and currently serves as the Chairman of the Economy and Culture Scrutiny Committee on Cardiff Council, and represents Cardiff on the Local Government Association. This year he retained his seat with a swing of 11% from Labour and with 54% of the vote. Cllr Williams previously stood in the Welsh Assembly constituency of Cardiff West, where he managed a swing of 8.8% against then-First Minister Rhodri Morgan. He commented on his selection:

"I am thrilled to have been selected as the Welsh Conservative candidate for Cardiff South and Penarth. I am determined to take the fight to Labour over the coming weeks and months. Since being elected onto Cardiff City Council I have put the regeneration and economic prosperity of Cardiff and the surrounding communities on the top of my agenda. I have proven during my tenure that I have the local knowledge, empathy and leadership to represent the people of Cardiff South and Penarth."

Continue reading "Cardiff councillor Craig Williams selected as the Conservative candidate for the Cardiff South and Penarth by-election" »

13 Sep 2012 15:27:10

Are we entering a new age of MPs leaving Parliament to take up other roles?

By Matthew Barrett
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Commons_chamberThere are a number of refreshing points about this parliament. The fact that it has seen the most rebellious Conservative parliamentary party for many decades, for example, or the fact it is giving more power to backbenchers to question members of the executive.

There is one trend which is perhaps a little more worrying. This parliament has already seen the most by-elections for reasons other than death/ill-health or what could loosely be described as "scandal", since the parliament that followed the October 1974 general election.

So far - and it's worth repeating that we're not even half way through this parliament - we've had six by-elections caused, or set to be caused, by MPs resigning to concentrate on other roles. Labour MP Sir Peter Soulsby resigned to win election as the Mayor of Leicester, Gerry Adams resigned to win election in a foreign country, Martin McGuinness resigned to concentrate on his role as Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, Labour MPs Tony Lloyd and Alun Michael resigned to contest Police and Crime Commissioner elections later this year, and many readers will be familiar with Louise Mensch's recent decision to stand down and spend more time with her family.

Continue reading "Are we entering a new age of MPs leaving Parliament to take up other roles?" »

6 Aug 2012 13:22:46

When should the Corby by-election be held?

By Peter Hoskin
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ConservativeHome understands that, despite earlier reports, the date for the Corby by-election is still not set in stone. At the moment, there are two options. Here they are, with some of the considerations that will factor in the choice:

15 November

This is the date that has been mentioned today. It is also the day of two other by-elections — in Cardiff South and Manchster Central — as well as of the police commissioner elections. Wrapping it up with these elections could have two benefits. First, it would make the campaign cheaper. Second, it could mean that any bad result will be diluted by what's around it, particularly if Tory candidates do well in the police commissioner votes.


There is talk that the party could move the writ forward to September, around or before the time of Labour's party conference. This might be a boon for Ed Miliband, giving him something to crow about from the stage in Manchester. But it could also help David Cameron stage a "relaunch" a couple of weeks later in Birmingham, rather than having that relaunch undermined from the off by Labour regaining a seat from the Tories in November. It would also give UKIP — who already have a Roger Helmer-shaped presence in the area — less time to organise themselves.

So, what do you think? The comments section is yours.

8 Mar 2012 21:37:28

The Conservative candidate for the Bradford West by-election is Jackie Whiteley

By Matthew Barrett
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Picture 14Conservative HQ has just released the news that Jackie Whiteley will be the candidate for the Bradford West by-election - which will be held on the 29th March.

This time last year, after Labour MP Denis MacShane was suspended from the party, Whiteley was confirmed as the "Conservative Parliamentary Spokesman" for his seat, Rotherham - which she contested in 2010, increasing the Conservative vote to 16.7% and leap-frogging the Lib Dems to take second place.

Party Co-Chairman Sayeeda Warsi, said:

"Jackie is an outstanding local candidate who has a reputation for working hard for the people of Yorkshire and I know she will fight for their best interests. Our campaign in Bradford is underway, we are out listening to voters in the constituency, and I will be campaigning alongside Jackie for every vote."

Whiteley commented on her selection:

"It is a great honour and extremely exciting to be the Conservative candidate for Bradford West.  As the owner of a small business and local employer, I have got a real understanding of the issues and concerns of Bradford’s residents and local businesses.  I will continue to campaign passionately for jobs, investment and a brighter future for the local community."

1 Mar 2012 09:21:32

Labour MP Marsha Singh to resign from Parliament

By Matthew Barrett
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Singh MarshaThis morning, the Bradford Telegraph and Argus carries the news that Marsha Singh, the Labour MP for Bradford West since 1997, will be resigning from Parliament due to ill health.

The Telegraph and Argus describes Mr Singh's undisclosed illness as "critical" and reports that he has been absent from Parliament for eight months "after he became seriously ill last July". Mr Singh is quoted as saying:

"I have been increasingly ill over a period of time last year and had a very serious illness and was admitted to hospital. I thought I had overcome that, but obviously that wasn’t the case and I have been back into hospital both in London and here. It was maybe wishful thinking on my part but I thought I would recover quickly and get back to work, until eventually with medical advice it became clear that it was going to take a lot longer to recover, if I ever fully do. I haven’t ruled out work completely for the future once I get out of the kind of critical stages of my illness. I have come to a very painful conclusion to announce my retirement because I’m in the job to serve my constituents and, if I can’t do that I don’t deserve to be paid for the job. They don’t deserve that and I can’t let them down."

We will report more details on the future by-election in due course, but for now we should send our best wishes to Mr Singh and hope he makes a good recovery.

Hat-tip to LabourList.